John Clare (1793 - 1864), the son of a Northamptonshire labourer, worked variously as a ploughboy, reaper, and thresher. He began writing verse at the age of 13 and had his first book of poems published in 1820. His suffered from severe bouts of melancholy and died in Northamptonshire Lunatic Asylum. Geoffrey Summerfield teaches English at New York University. He has spent many years working on the texts of Clare's poetry and is a leading authority on the poet.